The ecologic and economic value of eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadows has launched this estuarine plant species into the spotlight for resource management initiatives in Massachusetts. Such initiatives include ongoing research to identify areas where restoration efforts may be successful. Locations where eelgrass was found historically are especially prime candidates for eelgrass restoration projects. Historically, eelgrass blanketed Plum Island Sound, located on the north shore of Massachusetts. With water quality and other improvements to Plum Island Sound, it is believed that aquatic conditions are once again suitable for the growth and proliferation of this species.
A team of scientists from the University of New Hampshire developed an Eelgrass Habitat Suitability Model based on the scientific parameters that most influence eelgrass establishment and growth. Each parameter was weighted according to its degree of influence on eelgrass success and combined in a multiplicative rating to identify areas suitable for eelgrass reestablishment within Plum Island Sound. The model identified sites with good eelgrass habitat suitability, totaling to 1384 acres. The user-friendly map and GIS data layer show a ranking of all the sites on a scale of eelgrass restoration suitability. The model will serve as a valuable tool for guiding future eelgrass transplanting efforts at sites with the highest suitability in Plum Island Sound.
The report Novak, A. and Short, F. 2012. Creating the Basis for Successful Restoration: An Eelgrass Habitat Suitability Model in GIS for Plum Island Sound provides details of the study area, the criteria used,and how the model was applied and describes how the various sites were identified and ranked.